Injured, but still fighting for rights

UNBOWED. (L-R) Dr. Julie Caguiat, Reyan Naong, Nicole Soria, a Manobo datu, Dionesio Abear, Jerome Aba, Reynaldo Moldon, and Piya Macliing Malayao (in wheelchair) at the Ombudsman on Oct. 26. The activists charged the Manila Police with attempted murder and other criminal and administrative cases. (Contributed photo)
UNBOWED. (L-R) Dr. Julie Caguiat, Reyan Naong, Nicole Soria, Datu Gambel Mansimuyat, Dionesio Abear, Jerome Aba, Reynaldo Moldon, and Piya Macliing Malayao (in wheelchair) at the Ombudsman on Oct. 26. The activists charged the Manila Police with attempted murder and other criminal and administrative cases. (Contributed photo)

The injured activists who sued Manila Police officers over the violent dispersal in front of the US Embassy are ordinary folk fighting for their rights.

By DEE AYROSO
Bulatlat

MANILA – Dionesio Abear and Reyan Naong, both from Mindanao, did not expect to be beaten up by the police when they joined the protest in front of the US Embassy on Oct. 19. It was the second time for both to join a people’s caravan to Manila; their first was for President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) in July.

“Nothing happened then, no one was injured,” Naong said, recalling the peaceful rally by the 30,000-strong Manilakbayan from all over the country. “Dito lang pala kami sa US Embassy mabubugbog, he said.

Naong and Abear sustained head wounds and other injuries, and were one of the nine activists who filed attempted murder charges against Manila Police officers over the US Embassy dispersal. As indigenous peoples, peasant, worker, medical practitioners, youth, and jeepney driver – the nine also represent the wide range of ordinary folk fighting for their rights, for land, just wages, social services.

The police should go to jail and be removed from service, they said during the filing of charges at the Office of the Ombudsman on Oct. 26.

The US Embassy protesters led by Sandugo on Oct. 19 called for an independent foreign policy as they blasted US foreign domination, which they said is the overarching force that has kept poverty, economic and military backwardness in the country.

During the protest, Abear and Naong were both security marshalls tasked to keep the rallyists’ ranks secure and orderly. Abear, 42, is a peasant and member of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) from Molave, Zamboanga del Sur. Naong, 43, is a worker from Davao City and member of the Samahan ng Manggagawa Laban sa Kontraktwalisasyon (Sama-ako), affiliated with Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU).

When Abear left for Manila three weeks ago, he braced himself for hardship: “We know that we have to fight for our rights, it will not be given freely.” But he did not expect multiple head and body injuries.

Another peasant also sustained head and body injuries: Reynaldo Moldon, 56, a Tadyawan-Mangyan from Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro and member of the group Hagibbat. ”Sobra pong parang pagtratong hayop ang ginawa sa pamamalo sa aking katawan (They beat me up like an animal),” he told Bulatlat. After coming out of the hospital, Moldon said he had to lie in bed for three days due to body pains.

Jeepney driver Raymark Sumalbag, 23, was mobbed by truncheon-wielding police men who repeatedly hit him on the head. A high school graduate, he has worked as a jeepney driver plying the Cubao-Remedios route in the past two years and had joined other protests as a member of Piston.

“I just want to get justice,” he told Bulatlat. Although his first CT scan was clear, he is up for another set of tests to ensure full recovery.

Adam Daniel Lacson, 27, also calls for justice “specially for those with serious wounds.” He and another complainant, Dr. Julie Caguiat, were part of the medical team who were arrested by police while treating the wounded.

“As a health worker, I hope this will never happen again to any fellow health workers who only want to give help to those who need it, but were kept from doing so, and were even harmed,” he said. Lacson, a nutritionist by training, sustained abrasions and contusions as police grabbed and beat him up.

Nicole Soria, 18, an organizer of Kabataan Party-list-Quezon City, has her left arm on a sling when she went to the Ombudsman. Her chin and the length of the left side of her body was skinned when she was dragged under the police mobile that mowed down protesters in front of the US Embassy.

Her wounds still ache, and doctors say she may need plastic surgery. “Even if I want to get back to work, I need time to recover. But when I get well, I will carry on,” she said.

Piya Macliing Malayao, a Bontoc-Igorot and secretary general of the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu) was also ran over by the police van. She endured the throbbing pain on her right leg as she sat in a wheelchair at the Ombudsman. “Keri lang (It’s fine),” she said.

She said today, Oct. 27, the national minorities will try the US government in a “street tribunal,” after which they will deliver their “verdict” in another protest at the US Embassy. Today’s rally caps off the three-week campaign to Manila of national minorities from Mindanao, as they head back tomorrow, Oct. 28.

“I hope this time, they (police) will listen to why we are protesting. It is not just to get US troops out, but for justice for the indigenous peoples, for all the human rights violations and economic oppression… All the police have to do is watch their ranks and open their ears to the protesters,” she said.()

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